The World Factbook (1990)/Malawi

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See regional map VII


Total area: 118,480 km²; land area: 94,080 km²

Comparative area: slightly larger than Pennsylvania

Land boundaries: 2,881 km total; Mozambique 1,569 km, Tanzania 475 km, Zambia 837 km

Coastline: none—landlocked

Maritime claims: none—landlocked

Disputes: dispute with Tanzania over the boundary in Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi)

Climate: tropical; rainy season (November to May); dry season (May to November)

Terrain: narrow elongated plateau with rolling plains, rounded hills, some mountains

Natural resources: limestone; unexploited deposits of uranium, coal, and bauxite

Land use: 25% arable land; NEGL% permanent crops; 20% meadows and pastures; 50% forest and woodland; 5% other; includes NEGL% irrigated

Environment: deforestation

Note: landlocked


Population: 9,157,528 (July 1990), growth rate 1.8% (1990)

Birth rate: 52 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 18 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: -16 migrants/ 1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 130 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 48 years male, 50 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 7.7 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Malawian(s); adjective—Malawian

Ethnic divisions: Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuko, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European

Religion: 55% Protestant, 20% Roman Catholic, 20% Muslim; traditional indigenous beliefs are also practiced

Language: English and Chichewa (official); other languages important regionally

Literacy: 41.2%

Labor force: 428,000 wage earners; 43% agriculture, 16% manufacturing, 15% personal services, 9% commerce, 7% construction, 4% miscellaneous services, 6% other permanently employed (1986)

Organized labor: small minority of wage earners are unionized

Note: there are 800,000 Mozambican refugees in Malawi (1989 est.)


Long-form name: Republic of Malawi

Type: one-party state

Capital: Lilongwe

Administrative divisions: 24 districts; Blantyre, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Chitipa, Dedza, Dowa, Karonga, Kasungu, Kasupe, Lilongwe, Mangochi, Mchinji, Mulanje, Mwanza, Mzimba, Ncheu, Nkhata Bay, Nkhota Kota, Nsanje, Ntchisi, Rumphi, Salima, Thyolo, Zomba

Independence: 6 July 1964 (from UK; formerly Nyasaland)

Constitution: 6 July 1964; republished as amended January 1974

Legal system: based on English common law and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: Independence Day, 6 July (1964)

Executive branch: president, Cabinet

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly

Judicial branch: High Court, Supreme Court of Appeal

Leaders: Chief of State and Head of Government—President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu BANDA (since 6 July 1966; sworn in as President for Life 6 July 1971)

Political parties and leaders: only party Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Maxwell Pashane, administrative secretary; John Tembo, treasurer general; top party position of secretary general vacant since 1983

Suffrage: universal at age 21

Elections: President—President Banda sworn in as President for Life on 6 July 1971;

National Assembly—last held 27-28 May 1987 (next to be held by May 1992); results—MCP is the only party; seats—(133 total, 112 elected) MCP 133

Communists: no Communist party


Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Robert B. MBAYA; Chancery at 2408 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 797-1007; US—Ambassador George A. TRAIL, III; Embassy in new capital city development area, address NA (mailing address is P. O. Box 30016, Lilongwe); telephone 730-166

Flag: three equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and green with a radiant, rising, red sun centered in the black band; similar to the flag of Afghanistan which is longer and has the national coat of arms superimposed on the hoist side of the black and red bands


Overview: A landlocked country, Malawi ranks among the world's least developed with a per capita GDP of $180. The economy is predominately agricultural and operates under a relatively free enterprise environment, with about 90% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for 40% of GDP and 90% of export revenues. After two years of weak performance, economic growth improved significantly in 1988 as a result of good weather and a broadly based economic adjustment effort by the government. The closure of traditional trade routes through Mozambique continues to be a constraint on the economy.

GDP: $1.4 billion, per capita $180; growth rate 3.6% (1988)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 31.5% (1988)

Unemployment rate: NA%

Budget: revenues $246 million; expenditures $390 million, including capital expenditures of $97 million (FY88 est.)

Exports: $292 million (f.o.b., 1988); commodities—tobacco, tea, sugar, coffee, peanuts; partners—US, UK, Zambia, South Africa, FRG

Imports: $402 million (c.i.f., 1988); commodities—food, petroleum, semimanufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment; partners—South Africa, Japan, US, UK, Zimbabwe

External debt: $1.4 billion (December 1989 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate 6.4% (1988)

Electricity: 181,000 kW capacity; 535 million kWh produced, 60 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: agricultural processing (tea, tobacco, sugar), sawmilling, cement, consumer goods

Agriculture: accounts for 40% of GDP; cash crops—tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, and corn; subsistence crops—potatoes, cassava, sorghum, pulses; livestock—cattle and goats

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-88), $182 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $1.8 billion

Currency: Malawian kwacha (plural—kwacha); 1 Malawian kwacha (MK) = 100 tambala

Exchange rates: Malawian kwacha (MK) per US$1—2.6793 (January 1990), 2.7595 (1989), 2.5613 (1988), 2.2087 (1987), 1.8611 (1986), 1.7191 (1985)

Fiscal year: 1 April-31 March


Railroads: 789 km 1.067-meter gauge

Highways: 13,135 km total; 2,364 km paved; 251 km crushed stone, gravel, or stabilized soil; 10,520 km earth and improved earth

Inland waterways: Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi); Shire River, 144 km

Ports: Chipoka, Monkey Bay, Nkhata Bay, and Nkotakota all on Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi)

Civil air: 3 major transport aircraft

Airports: 48 total, 47 usable; 6 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 1 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 9 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: fair system of open-wire lines, radio relay links, and radio communication stations; 36,800 telephones; stations—8 AM, 4 FM, no TV; satellite earth stations—1 Indian Ocean INTELSAT and 1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT

Note: a majority of exports would normally go through Mozambique on the Beira or Nacala railroads, but now most go through South Africa because of insurgent activity and damage to rail lines

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Army Air Wing, Army Naval Detachment, paramilitary Police Mobile Force Unit, paramilitary Young Pioneers

Military manpower: males 15-49, 1,904,445; 967,032 fit for military service

Defense expenditures: 1.6% of GDP, or $22 million (1989 est.)